Instagram Reels have transformed the marketing playing field on Instagram since being introduced in 2020. Content on the Meta-owned social media channel has never been more discoverable, and brands are finding extraordinary success in introducing short-form video into their Instagram content strategies.
Reels pose an interesting challenge for marketers, as the short-form video format is unlike anything that has come before on Instagram. It’s snappier, wittier, and trendier, and what works one week may not work the next. In order to help you and your brand navigate this space, we’ve compiled an exhaustive guide of how to get started making Instagram Reels and find success with short-form videos.
In this article, we'll touch on:
Instagram Reels are a short-form video format that prioritizes content that is fun, dynamic, and easy to watch. Similar to TikTok, Instagram presents Reels as an infinitely scrollable lineup, so viewers can easily scroll from one Reel to the next, and engage with a large amount of content in one sitting.
Reels are easy to make, and viewers prefer content that is authentic, which is an opportunity and a challenge for brands. Reels that appear to be overly produced will not perform well––however, any social media manager can pick up their phone and start recording content without too much effort, which makes it easier to film Reels at a regular cadence.
Instagram Reels are highly discoverable on the Explore page, making it a primary destination for viewers who may not have heard about your brand to find and engage with your content.
While TikTok popularized the short-form video format, there are a number of differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok that brands should consider when deciding which channels they should have a presence on. For starters, Instagram Reels for brands is much easier to start planning for when your brand already has a well-established presence on Instagram. Your existing followers on Instagram will be able to view and engage with your new content, while you will need to establish an audience on TikTok from the ground up. Some additional differences include:
Instagram Stories were introduced in 2016, and over the years they have become a staple of the Instagram platform. Instagram Reels were introduced in 2020, and like Stories, they were introduced to complement Instagram’s existing features, rather than replace anything. Stories and Reels are not competing features, and, in fact, work together well for brands investing in Instagram growth strategies.
Reels are able to be shared as Instagram Stories, which can be a powerful cross-promotional tactic to ensure your content is being seen by as many of your followers as possible.
Instagram Reels can be as simple as pointing your phone’s camera at a subject and pressing record. The channel’s creative tools make creating Reels a breeze for marketers. From the navigation menu, where you post your regular Post and Stories content, there is also a button for posting a Reel. That is where you have the ability to record content on the fly, or upload video footage from your phone. Be sure to make use of the timer to record short bursts of hands-free footage, and play around with Instagram’s robust editing tools to create seamless transitions, line up objects and backgrounds, stitch together multi-clip videos, and explore the Instagram music library to really help your video make an impression.
If you choose to upload produced video, keep this best practice in mind: lo-fi video, shot in the moment on your phone, is perceived as being more authentic by viewers, and usually earns better performance as a result. Doing well in this format doesn’t have to be time-consuming or costly.
Tip: Instagram Reels can be up to 60 seconds long. As Instagram, like TikTok, encourages fast scrolling through short-form video, it’s important to capture your audience’s attention as fast as possible so they don’t scroll past your content. Don’t be afraid to post Reels that are much shorter than the allotted time.
From the left navigation menu, select the music icon. From there, Instagram will recommend a number of top songs and original audio for you to use. You also have the ability to search music that you have saved, or use the search navigation at the top to search for specific songs.
From the left navigation menu, select the icon represented by three sparkles. From there, you have the ability to add special effects that are branded, trending, or alter the appearance of your Reel in real-time, including extremely popular AR effects. You also have the ability to search for specific effects if you are not able to find them straight away.
Reels are 1080p wide and 1920p long. Your phone and Instagram camera will automatically account for the size as you film, so in most cases, you won’t have to worry about the dimensions of a Reel, unless you are uploading produced video.
Instagram Reels analytics are available to creators or businesses that have access to the Insights feature. In most cases, businesses will use a business account for Instagram marketing, but be sure to read our blog post on Instagram creator accounts to learn the subtle differences between the two types of accounts.
From your account, select Insights, and then select Accounts Reached in the Overview section. From there, you are able to see the performance of your Reels. By selecting the arrow to the right of your number of Reels, you are able to get even more granular insights into how individual Reels have performed.
Instagram keeps the secret to its algorithm close to its chest. There is really no telling what goes into making content that is served at the top of users’ Explore pages. However, there are a few best practices for making content that succeeds:
Tip: It is not recommended to post TikToks on Instagram with the TikTok watermark. Instagram makes visibly recycled content less discoverable. Upload your original videos straight to Instagram to earn better performance.
Instagram has surpassed 2 billion monthly active users, and while Facebook still has the largest number of monthly active users for a social channel, Instagram has a faster growth trajectory, making it a channel that your brand simply cannot ignore.
Even if your brand has had a presence on Instagram for some time, Reels are such a departure from Instagram’s typical features that investing in the format will feel like rebooting your Instagram presence from scratch, and that may just be what your brand needs to stave off any follower plateaus you may be facing.
The short-form video format, which has taken the world by storm with its excitability, may be what your brand needs to supercharge its engagement.
The following five tips will help your brand take advantage of Reels to increase video views much like Ganni in the case study above.
Reel ads look similar to regular Reels, but brands are able to use Instagram’s paid promotion features to get them in front of more users. They can be interacted with, saved, and shared, just like the rest of your content.
This method is an effective way to use your top-performing Reels to get your brand in front of more users and be discovered by those who may not have heard of your brand before. Reel ads appear anywhere that Reels appear, including the feed, Explore page, and the Reels tab.
The short-form video format is a great way to give explainers of your product or service that are brief but make an impact. Beauty brands are partnering with creators on makeup tutorials using their products, and consumer electronics brands are giving demos of the latest tech. No matter what value proposition your brand has to offer, Reels are a great way to share it with new audiences. Reel product tagging also gives brands the opportunity to link products within videos, so it’s never been easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
Instagram Reels are easily shared, and viewers love feeling like they are in the know by following your brand. Implement short-form video in your campaign strategy by giving exclusive sneak peeks and teasers of upcoming launches, or product sales, to get your viewers to engage with and share your content in suspense. The more engagement Reels receive, the better they perform, so an element of mystery can boost your brand’s performance on the algorithm.
Creators are at the heart of short-form video. Viewers love Reels with a human face, and by partnering with creators who already have an engaged audience, your brand will have a significant boost as it enters the format. Creator partnerships require a little bit more legwork than typical influencer sponsorships, as you are actually co-creating a video with a user, but the extra effort is well worth it.
Many brands are now entering long-tail partnerships with creators on social entertainment, to great success.
Fans of short-form video love authenticity, and this is a chance for you to humanize your brand and form a greater emotional connection with your audience. Many brands are succeeding with employee participation in Reels, which shows a side to your brand that audiences may not see on your Instagram feed or website.
Remember, Reels don’t have to be serious, and the most successful content in the world of social entertainment tends to be light-hearted and cheeky. This is your opportunity to be creative and film fun videos that people will love.
Dash Hudson now offers a full suite of Instagram Reels tools, including Analytics, Community, LikeShop, Boards, and more. These tools not only give users a sense of how their Instagram strategy is performing as a whole, but also the ability to communicate seamlessly with their audience with Instagram DMs and comments, analyze top-performing content, and segment content into different pillars to understand how each impacts your overall strategy. Custom Dash Hudson metrics like Effectiveness Rate help brands understand content performance and use those insights to create more impactful content. It’s the micro and macro look at your strategy that your brand needs.
It’s time to streamline your brand's Instagram Reels strategy with the help of Dash Hudson. To learn more about how to scale your brand’s social media performance, check out Dash Hudson’s industry benchmarks.
Social media is constantly evolving and the recent evolution is a call for short-form, highly entertaining video. Instagram has answered that call with Reels, where users have the ability to discover and create short-form video faster and easier than ever before.
Instagram Reels can be up to one minute and 30 seconds (90 seconds), to 15 minutes long.
If you have the latest version of Instagram, chances are you already have Reels. You can find the Reels icon in the middle of the row of icons on the bottom of your screen. Click that icon to start enjoying Reels right away.
In order to have the ability to use Reels on Instagram you must have the latest version of the app. If you aren’t seeing a Reels option on your account, be sure to go to the app store and update your Instagram app.
Yes. Instagram users have the ability to see how many times their reels have been played, how many accounts it’s reached and of course, likes, comments, shares and saves all within the native Instagram app. If you’re looking for a more in-depth analysis of key metrics, Dash Hudson’s suite of tools specifically for Reels provides powerful data surrounding individual post performance, and your account as a whole.
Unfortunately, Instagram stopped the Instagram Reels Play bonus program as of March 9, 2023. However, there are still ways to drive revenue with Instagram Reels — brands should create compelling calls to action within their content, and make use of link-in-bio features like LikeShop, which create a seamless experience from your feed to your website. What's more, Dash Hudson's Influencer and ROI tool is also useful to identify which influencer partnerships are driving traffic and revenue for your brand on Reels.